My goal this week was to familiarize myself with the methods that are used in order to effectively teach girls. The most general and comprehensive resource that I found on this topic is a book called “Teaching the Female Brain” that was published in 2009, implying that this has been a standard for around the past ten years, but also that things have changed and some of the information may be slightly outdated. According to this book, there is a slight difference in learning styles between boys and girls due to certain tendencies in girls such as either having better auditory skills or struggling more with kinesthetic learning (James 2009). While this is important to take note of, it is also even more importan to remember that nothing can be generalized to every girl. One article argues that putting too much emphasis on girls performing better under a certain learning style poses danger of reinforcing gender stereotypes that are already there and making girls feel more alienated within science learning. Since different learning styles can work for different children of either gender, it is unnecessary to try to generalize one type of learning that will work for all girls (Hughes 2000).
The research paper that I read this week discussed a survey of over 2,900 sixth and eighth grade students from a range of schools across the US. The goal of this research was to try to find if there is a correlation between competency beliefs in science ability and performance within science in girls. A student who has high competency belief feels that he or she is able to succeed in scientific thought in their classes and beyond. The researchers found that there is a correlation between 8th grade girls’ level of competency belief and their level of achievement within science. There is no correlation between these two factors in 8th grade boys. The researchers found that there was no intrinsic difference in the boys’ and girls’ abilities by removing confounding variables, but there was a difference in their performance correlating with how good at science they believed themselves to be (Vincent Ruz & Schunn 2017). The researchers speculate that this difference comes from the fact that boys see science as a male practice, and therefore see it as something that is possible for themselves whether they believe they can perform well or not. Girls on the other hand do not see as many examples of women in science and do not automatically see themselves being scientists unless they are really good at it.
Some ways to combat these issues within teaching are to encourage girls and their parents to engage with optional science activities. This is one of the ways in which my club will allow girls to begin to see themselves as competent scientists. As well as encouraging this extra and more engaging science outside of class, girls should also be encouraged to speak in class. This could happen by either calling on them or making them do group work. When girls’ voices are heard, they begin to feel that they know more about science. Another method for effective pedagogy is showing girls role models who have some similarities to themselves so that they can see that it is not only men who pursue science.
The readings that I did this week have really helped me think about what will be important within my club as well as the fact that just having the club as an option within itself will already be extremely beneficial to girls who may be struggling with feeling competent within science.
Hughes, G. (2000). Marginalization of Socioscientific Material in Science-Technology-Society Science Curricula: Some Implications for Gender Inclusivity and Curriculum Reform. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(5), 426–440. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1098-2736(200005)37:5<426::AID-TEA3>3.0.CO;2-U
James, A. N. (2009). Teaching the Female Brain: How Girls Learn Math and Science. SAGE Publications.Vincent-Ruz, P., & Schunn, C. D. (2017). The increasingly important role of science competency beliefs for science learning in girls. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 54(6), 790–822. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.21387